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Three in five UAE drivers have been road rage victims, tempers flare since pandemic

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Road safety campaigners say that three in five motorists in the United Arab Emirates have experienced road rage during their daily commute, while a quarter have admitted to losing their temper whilst driving due to reckless behavior on the roads.

The problem of road rage has only accelerated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Thomas Edelmann, managing director at Road Safety UAE, who describes the rise as multi-fold.

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Firstly, people have become more stressed over the past two years during the pandemic, while, after an almost deserted spell on the roads, motorists are finding themselves back in congestion, facing the daily work commute and finding the frustrations of this more compounding after an absence without it.

“The ‘buzz is back’ in Dubai, so are the traffic jams,” said Edelmann. “We hear constant stories of frustrated motorists.”

Edelmann said the problem has also been exacerbated by an upsurge in of new developments and a trend of more people moving out of city-centre flats into villas as they seek bigger, more rural properties post-pandemic -- leading to bottlenecks in areas crippled by heavy traffic flow.

“This creates traffic of commuting residents, students, suppliers, and so on. Pretty much every day on the radio we hear about congestion in the morning and afternoon rush hours in these new areas. Motorists feel cornered without escape and sometimes, this can create misbehavior and road rage.”

Road Safety UAE ran a YouGov survey about road tolerance and road rage and found, when prompted about being exposed to acts of road rage by other motorists, 64 percent of the 1,000 respondents claim to ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ be exposed to it.

Reflecting on their own behavior, 24 percent of UAE motorists admitted being driven into road rage by the reckless driving of others, and of those, 73 percent of respondents said they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ fall into road rage themselves, 63 percent witness others ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ falling into road rage and 58 percent observe rude retaliating driving or stopping/blocking traffic as an act of road rage.

Furthermore, “36 percent witness obscene gestures and 24 per cent witness foul language,” said Edelmann

Of those quizzed, 50 percent of respondents think that road users are tolerant to each other in general, however, more than one in three (35 percent) witness deliberate and egoistic acts like reckless driving, bullying, jumping the queue, and tailgating.

“Clearly this is an indication that we have to work on establishing a more caring attitude for each other on our roads, as road rage clearly is an ingredient to many forms of reckless driving, which can cause accidents,” said Edelmann.

Often, mechanics and garages are tasked with repairing damage to vehicles as fallout from road rage.

Ancy Alexander, the general manager of Falcon Auto Engineering, said it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of a traffic jam, drivers sometimes volunteer their experiences on the road.

“As a car repair workshop, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for an accident unless there is an opportunity to have a conversation with the vehicle owner.

“An accident report provides details of the damage to the vehicle, not what led to the accident. Often, this information is not volunteered by the affected party either.

“But, in a month, we typically handle a few minor repair works caused by accidents resulting from road rage.”

Alexander said that road rage can be both financially and emotionally impactful on the victim.

“As a business that involves face-to-face interaction with vehicle owners and drivers who have been clients for a long time, I can say that road rage is unpleasant,” she said.

“Drivers of small to heavy vehicles often share how they have to dangerously switch lanes due to being tailgated and honked at relentlessly till they do so.

“Clients have shared instances where they were forced to drive their vehicle onto a pavement or into a barricade to avoid colliding with irate motorists who brake suddenly and intentionally in retaliation towards the driver expressing concern or frustration about reckless speeding or lane changing.

“Once, I shockingly witnessed two men, enraged, jump out of their cars and get into an aggressive fistfight in public over a parking spot.

“It is human to feel irritated when stuck in traffic or when parking is particularly tough on a not-so-good day. But what instigates aggressive acts that lead to causing physical harm to another person requires deep study with the intention of finding pragmatic long-term solutions.

“More accurate data will be a great step in the right direction for this.”

Gargash Auto also fixes about 650 cars during a typical month for accident repairs, said Amir Pervaiz, the company’s general manager.

Mandeep Jassal, a behavioral therapist at Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which runs anger management courses, offered an insight into the mental health impact incidents of road rage can leave.

“Individuals who experience road rage are often living in autopilot and in ‘reaction mode.’ In comparison, when individuals are feeling calm and grounded, they are often in ‘responding mode’ which ultimately means having emotional distance from the trigger situation, e.g. someone cutting you up whilst driving.

“In some cultures, more than others, road rage and honking the car horn, in particular, is more common. For example, studies show how noise levels on the road can be much higher in Eastern societies compared to Western societies. However, this is a problem across the globe in its various forms.”

Like Edelmann, Jassal also believes incidents of road rage are a more common occurrence.

“Today, perhaps more than ever, individuals are competitive and striving for the very best, whether, for example, in their career, as a parent or in their appearance.

“We are often caught in the ‘rat race’ of life and the pandemic has certainly heightened insecurities especially for those who already had a predisposition to anxiety.

“For example, financial insecurities, worries about health, the stress and strain of working from home and home-schooling during the last two years have all had an impact on our anxiety levels.”

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